biggest nuclear power plant a terrorist target
The Washington Times, March 20, 2003
By Bill Gertz and Jerry Seper
Terrorists have targeted the United States' largest
nuclear power plant near Phoenix, and security officials are looking
for Iraqi government "sleeper cells" that might carry out
the attack, The Washington Times has learned.
The threat to the Palo Verde nuclear plant, located
in the Sonora desert 50 miles west of Phoenix, prompted the deployment
of National Guard troops to the facility, according to U.S. officials.
"We understand the sensitivity of this time,
and we are very, very committed to protecting the safe operation of
Palo Verde," Jim McDonald, a spokesman for the Arizona Public Service
Co., which owns the reactor complex, said in an interview.
Mr. McDonald declined to comment on specific intelligence
indicating a threat to Palo Verde but noted that the troops were added
Tuesday by order of Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano.
One official said the report on the Palo Verde threat
was contained in classified intelligence reports distributed to law-enforcement
and security officials.
A second U.S. official confirmed the report and
said it was "uncorroborated threat information" that was sent
to appropriate U.S. security authorities.
Palo Verde is the largest nuclear power facility
in the United States with three reactors that produced 30 billion kilowatt
hours of electricity last year, Mr. McDonald said.
The threat to attack the facility came from sensitive
information indicating that the plant was targeted by Middle Eastern
terrorists who were not further identified.
The threat to Palo Verde comes as other intelligence
reports indicate that Iraq has set up clandestine cells of operatives
inside the United States or abroad that could be called on to conduct
attacks or sabotage on behalf of Baghdad.
For example, recent intelligence reports indicated
that Iraqi diplomats in Cairo had conducted surveillance of the U.S.
Embassy there, U.S. officials said.
Officials did not say how many Iraqi cells are in
the country. Baghdad has nearly 250 officials posted to the United States,
most of them at its U.N. mission in New York.
A Bush administration official said the State Department
has decided to expel the three Iraqi diplomats posted to Baghdad's interest
section in Washington. The expulsion order is expected as early as today.
Only Iraqi officials engaged in improper intelligence
or terrorism-related activity can be expelled from the U.N. mission.
Meanwhile, the FBI warned law-enforcement officials
yesterday to watch for suspicious activity by people driving Iraqi diplomatic
"Suspicious activity involving vehicles bearing
Iraqi diplomatic license plates should be reported immediately to the
nearest Joint Terrorism Task Force," the FBI stated in a weekly
Codes used by cars driven by Iraqi diplomats in
Washington bear the "TF," and Iraqi U.N. diplomatic vehicles
in New York have the "TS" code.
Intelligence officials said the administration has
urged governments around the world to expel Iraqi diplomats, and several
Iraqi diplomats have been expelled in recent days
from Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Germany, Sweden, Finland, Thailand
Two Iraqis also were expelled from the United States
on March 5 after they were identified as intelligence officers, U.S.
Justice Department officials yesterday confirmed
that the FBI is looking to interview as many as 50,000 Iraqis now in
the United States for information that could help U.S. forces. They
said a war with Iraq is expected to dramatically increase the chances
of terrorist attacks against U.S. targets in this country and abroad.
One senior department official said that while most
Iraqis in this country are not believed to be terrorists or associated
with terrorist organizations, Muslim extremists within the Iraqi community
who are affiliated with al Qaeda could use a war as the reason for an
Among the Iraqis being sought for questioning are
3,000 illegal immigrants said to be missing, amid U.S. concerns that
some could be connected with groups or agents of the Iraqi regime.
Earlier this week, Mexican authorities detained
six Iraqi citizens as they sought to cross into the United States from
Tijuana. The six, including one woman, claimed to be German citizens
on their arrival at the Tijuana airport Tuesday night on a flight from
Mexico City. They have been returned to Mexico City for questioning.
It could not be learned if the detained Iraqis were
connected to the plot to attack Palo Verde.
Border Patrol authorities also confirmed that a
diary written in Arabic was found last week in a backpack discovered
on a southern Arizona trail frequently used by illegal aliens. The diary,
according to the sources, contained names and telephone numbers of at
least two persons in Canada and Iran.
The FBI has since taken custody of the diary, but
refused comment on it yesterday.